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Hafner Vineyard

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Night Harvest

Night HarvestOur Chardonnay Harvest is a wrap! We started picking on Tuesday, September 6th and finished just four days later. Each day at 4am, the vineyard team and I gathered at our shop, started the machine harvester and headed out to the block we planned to pick. At first, only our headlamps and the bright lights from the machinery light the way. It’s an incredible time of day. The cold brisk air, roaring engines, darkness all around us. I am anxious to start picking each season, but once we get going, I find that I’m calm. With each row, we have a sense of accomplishment. We’ve nurtured the vines over the entire year and now we see the bounty and results of our hard work.

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Replanting a Vineyard

David Huebel explaining organic soil builder in the block that will be replanted.A vineyard is always a work in progress. Every block I have ever worked with has had a unique personality. Even two blocks of the same variety planted next to each other are often quite different. And each block has a lifetime. For some that can be 100+ years! Though about 30 or 35 years is more common. Sometimes disease can lead to a shorter life span. That is what happened to 13 acres of our Chardonnay.

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Cover Crop

Insectary blends attract predatory insects and bring vibrant colors to the vineyard. Vineyard sustainability in action!Driving through the Wine Country, you may notice some vineyards are void of any vegetation on the vineyard floor, while others have grass and weeds growing between the rows, and still others are a mixture of these styles with rows alternating between cultivated and uncultivated land. You might also notice that beneath some rows the soil is untilled but bare while others show signs of cultivation. Why is that? Vineyard practices vary from grower to grower. The methods we employ are motivated by our desire to enrich the soil and promote a healthy environment for our vines, thereby preserving the land for generations to come. 

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GoPro Captures Pruning

Martin Pruning at Hafner VineyardFrom December until March each year, our veteran vineyard crew tackles the tedious and time consuming job of pruning our 80,000 vines. While the vines are dormant, the crew removes most of last year’s growth selecting which buds will be saved to grow this year. Every cut answers many questions: Is the vine in balance? How strong is the vine? Is this spur in a good position for the harvester? How did this vine fair last year? With 96 acres, these decisions must be made quickly. Martín Aleman has been with Hafner Vineyard for over two decades. Here he wears a GoPro showing us what it is like to prune just one vine. With eight men in the vineyard, each prunes roughly 10,000 vines. A daunting task but one with great reward. 

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Rain...and then some!

The entrance to Hafner Vineyard on the morning of December 11, 2014.

It’s no secret we are suffering from a severe drought that has been mounting for three years. Luckily, wine grape vineyards are not heavily irrigated in comparison to other crops. We irrigate from mid-July until the end of October and use minimal water, 75% less than most crops.

2012 and 2013 were dry years with less than half of an average year’s rainfall. From April 2013 through January 2014, we received just one inch of rain. A normal year would likely see 18 inches in that time.

Finally, rain arrived! November brought us five inches of rain. Light precipitation continued in December. Then came the forecast of a major storm on December 11, 2014. 

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